After sampling a number of business-related podcasts and failing to find one that inspired my loyalty, I heard The Skeptics Guide 5×5 and shouted Eureka!
The Skeptics Guide 5×5 is a weekly production of the New England Skeptical Society. I think that it does almost everything right:
Title and tag line: The Skeptic’s Guide 5×5: “Five minutes with Five Skeptics.” The title caught my eye and correctly led me to believe that this would be a skeptical inquiry into a topical story involving religious, paranormal, pseudo-scientific hokum. The weekly topics that appear in the title are also irresistible: Man regenerates finger, Surgery under hypnosis, Ghost photographs, Steven Spielberg to create paranormal online community. The tag line, “Five minutes with five skeptics” is in the first sentence spoken by the host, and tells me that I only have to invest five minutes — a major attraction for my limited attention span, and a benefit I’d like to incorporate into my own podcast title or tagline.
Concept viability: The Skeptics Guide hasn’t missed a week since it debuted in January of this year and the dozen episodes that I’ve listened to have all featured the same 5 skeptics who are identified only by their first names. A major strength of the concept is that there is no shortage of preposterous paranormal stories to debunk. In world where an appearance of the Virgin Mary on a grilled cheese sandwich makes the front page, The Skeptics Guide 5×5 will never be in danger of running out of material.
Audience targeting: Perfect for the secular humanist such as I who is exasperated by the popular willingness to suspend disbelief over the latest miracle, ghost story, UFO sighting or Virgin Mary appearance. An important ingredient of The Skeptics Guide is that it’s both sober and entertaining. It doesn’t shoot fish in a barrel. The panel is scientifically savvy and examines the story at hand with dispassionate analysis. No matter how ridiculous the reported event is, they debunk without disparaging the perpetrators or the nitwits who are falling for the story.
Promotion: A banner for The Skeptics Guide 5×5 is featured on the organization’s home page along with their “main” pod cast which features longer interviews. As a non-profit probably operating on a shoestring, they probably don’t have the budget for off-site promotion.
Production. Overall, very good. The five panelists are professionally mic-ed, their voices are distinguishable from each other, and there’s rarely any cross-talk. The theme music is original and appropriate, which just a hint of sci-fi. The one significant flaw is the absence of title artwork, which, to the skeptical podcast surfer, signifies that this production is probably in the home-made category. It definitely is not.